Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Come A Long Way

“Yeah, but you’re not a regular girl” I hear this a lot, Randy being one of the most frequent slingers of this odd….slightly flattering, yet mildly “tweaking” comment. I can always tell when the phrase is uttered that it is meant as a compliment of sorts but, well….I kinda like being a “girl”. My Amy would hate this comment, she hates generalizations and stereotypes but I’m more of a, “some stereotypes are there for a reason” kind of person, so like I said, the comment is slightly flattering in a way.

Toilet seat, don’t care.

Hubby wants to eat ice cream and French fries for breakfast, don’t care.

So and so cheats on whomever, don’t care.

Shopping, dreadful.

Shoe shopping, even worse.

Feminine charms, dig it.

Making a man stutter, really dig it.

Being treated like a princess, love it.

Being an emotional caregiver, really love it.

I curse like a sailor, drink too much, talk about sex all the time, cry at movies, get all squishy around my 3 year old neighbor and I feed off that moment when I walk in a room and can tell who I am going to be able to make nervous….and I sit by them. So I get why I have been labeled a, “guy-girl” (Randyism by the way) but while I adore the fact that I can hang with the dudes and all…I love being a woman, well until some knuckle-dragging a-hole makes me feel like my lack of a penis is some kind of defect.

When I first got in the wine business around 13 years ago there were not that many women, some sure but not a lot, thankfully that has changed. Our numbers are increasing and I am happy to say that there are more and more passionate, savvy and talented females in the business each year….Yay! It’s a pretty balanced bunch of girlies too, split just as the guys are, some in it just to be in sales, some total geeks that can rattle off what elevation such and such was grown at and those like myself, that are seriously in love with wine, were seduced by what’s in the bottle and its place on the table. Never being a fan of standing out in a crowd, I was and am thrilled that there are more women in the wine business, makes me more comfortable, opens the door for others, and some of those chicks are really freaking cool.

For the most part I have to say that the male dominated wine business was pretty open to females infiltrating, least by the time I stepped in the pool. There was that feeling of, “Awe, that’s cute” at first, I was fine with that, matter of fact that part was kind of fun. “Here let me help you get to the front of the table” or “Would you like me to dump that for you?” the best part was how willing they all were to offer information….teach, they still are. There was never that macho, “I’m not sharing my knowledge with a stinky girl” crap, of course there were, and still are those crusty dudes that act like a woman cannot possibly know as much as a man…but I suspect they are like that about everything, not just wine. My entry into this business was a warm welcoming one…oh don’t think I am not fully aware that part of the reason is that men with a tummy full of wine tend to want women around them, I am hip to the buzzed horny guy part of it but for the most part the dudes took the rush of females pretty damn well.

The last hurdle, freaking customers man. Cannot tell you how many times I’ve helping a male customer and had someone interrupt us, look at him and ask, “Where is the Burgundy department?”….sure don’t ask the chick with the price gun and box cutter, ask the man that is asking HER for help, grumble. It has gotten better but it still happens, just this past Sunday Merritt and I were working at the shop and a guy, in his late thirties early forties walks in, “Who’s working today?” he bellowed. “We are” Merritt and I said in tandem, “That’s it?! You probably like those soft wines right?” sigh. After explaining that I was the French wine buyer and could in fact help him pick a Bordeaux he opted to wing it on his own….whatever dude, would rather not help someone with that kind of attitude anyway. The best was when he barked from the back of the store, “You know what, I’m going to let you help me pick a little Burgundy for the little lady”….tool.

My Favorite Exchanges

When working a Champagne dinner I was asked to walk around and talk to the attendees about the wines. I walked up to one table and over heard a discussion about how the wines were not cold enough, I began to tell them that we did not want the wines too cold, we wanted people to truly taste the base wines on those remarkable Champagnes and was told, “Sam, that is a really pretty lipstick you are wearing, you always have the best taste in lipstick…why don’t you stick to that” kick in the gut to say the very least.

A woman in her mid to late sixties was looking for a White Burgundy so I was asked to go back and help her. “You need help picking a Burgundy?” I asked. “Oh no they went to get me a wine guy thank you” she said, “Well that would be me. I am the Burgundy buyer” I tried to reassure her. “Oh no, I need a really good one, can you find me someone else?”…the penis being a honing device for great White Burgundy and all. I got her a guy, one that had started a week before, she was pleased.

A guy looking like he had just arrived from Florida, dark tan, loud printed, short-sleeved shirt…unbuttoned to just above his navel, gold chain…with an anchor medallion dangling in his grey chest hair, doused in Aqua Velva had been puttering around the store. He barked on his cell phone, yelled questions (to the men of course) across the store and was checking out just as I was leaving for the day. He walked out behind me and was putting his wine in the trunk of his car, which just so happened to be parked next to mine and he said, “Know what I think?” and of course I was dying to know what he thought….”I think you could use a few more swinging cocks in that hen house”…awesome.

Those types of exchanges are getting fewer and further between, I’m tremendously grateful for that, but more than anything I am so proud of both the women that followed their hearts and their passion and the industry that welcomed us with very open, (okay sometimes too open…horny drunk dudes, gotta love em’) arms. I love wine, I love the wine business and I am so grateful that I get to do what it is I love even though I have boobies and junk


k2 said...

Holy crap! I don't know what to say other than "%&#$!" I've a lot of women wine sales help, and my assistant wine buyers have almost always been women. I've been more apt to listen to what a woman has to say about a wine because I just think women get it more than guys do, and I feel that translates better to the customers. I still see the chauvinism from customers but it's a rarity. My current assistant will more-than-likely take over for me at some point - my other assistants have moved on to wholesale gigs, and with all the women sommeliers out there, the chauvinism should go the way of the dinosaur before you know it. Keep fightin' the good fight!

Samantha Dugan said...

My boss has always been the same way, both of his managers have been female and at one point we had 9 women and 2 men working at The Wine Country. Like I said, things have gotten much better but that guy onb Sunday reminded me of how hard it used to be.

John M. Kelly said...

Maybe it's just part and parcel of the place you are. God I hate SoCal! And I have family there! But I'm glad you see things changing however slowly.

OK I admit the wine store I managed briefly in the mid-80's - all guys, except for one women barkeep hired because she was "finishing up her enology degree" but really because she was very hot.

But once I started in production? Strong, talented women everywhere I've worked, at about 1:3 or 1:2 (and man, could I drop some names).

Proven scientific fact that women are generally better tasters than men. I rely on this fact: if I have a doubt about something I'm tasting - a blend, for example - I have a small group of women friends who I call on first to help.

And sales? Fugeddaboudit! Again in general, in my experience women sales reps outsell the men (Stephen, Dan - you guys excluded, but Doug - you know what I'm talking about!). Not by a lot, but by enough that it's got to be more than chance.

Sam sorry you have to del with the cavemen who don't get it. Don't let it get your knickers in a twist.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Somebody better tell Helen Turley and the many, many superb female winemakers, growers, and for that matter chefs.

Troy M.

Ron Washam, HMW said...

My Gorgeous Samantha,

It is also sad that so few influential wine critics are women. Once you get past Jancis Robinson there just aren't very many. OK, Matt Kramer's sort of a girl, but mostly all the hype and numbers and shelf-talkers in the world are from males.

Of course, ultimately wine is about inebriation and most cultures see that as the province of worldly men, but loose women. Though I'm not the biggest fan of blogs, maybe all the female voices out there will start to change that perception. Your writing and interests and taste are far superior to almost all the men out there blogging, and yours is a fabulous female voice. But notice that the vast majority of commenters on blogs are men. Where are the women with strong opinions? On all the major wine chat rooms it's mostly a boys club. Where are the women standing up to those bullies?

You are right about how much has changed, but, frankly, it hasn't changed quickly enough or firmly enough. Yes, there are a lot more women winemakers, but the wine world from a buying and selling point of view is still far too heavily penocentric. I made that word up, what I mean is there are still way too many dicks in the wine biz.

You, My Darling, I love!

Your HoseMaster

Samantha Dugan said...

Might have less to do with SoCal and more to do with the fact that we are very near the uber conservative Orange County line. Don't worry darlin' I don't let em' crunch my crunders, they simply get me fired up enough to prove them wrong...fuck, I love that. Like when someone comes in and asks, "Where are all the guys?" I get to say, "Well being that I am their boss...I sent them home" seems to help shift the balance of power from then on out.

Hello my dear friend, I miss you guys. Winemakers seem like another thing...

Penocentric, I freaking love it! You are right of course, there are not enough female voices on the critic side either...not sure there are many female bloggers that would fit the bill, most of them sound like they are barfing up all the same crusty crap as their penocentric pals, no real female voice, makes me sad. Maybe those Wine Harlot chicks could do...they are sassy sisters and all...
I adore you as well sweetheart.

K Claret said...


F those people! I deal with asshole customers every day too. Not much better here in D.C. The problem here is most people who work in the small shops are real tools! So when people see me they think I am another idiot. It's the customers loss. There will always be more people that truly suck than those that are cool! Cheers!


Nancy Deprez said...

Swinging cocks in the henhouse? That guy is a class act. He probably gave himself a pat on the back with that brilliant comment.

Samantha Dugan said...

Most of our customers are awesome but every once in a while...argh!

Yeah, he was a personal favorite, truly magic.